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SEVASTOPOL, July 24. /TASS/. The situation over France's failure to deliver Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia is a big diplomatic mistake, a member of the French parliamentary delegation Nicolas Duik said on Friday.
A delegation of French lawmakers comprising deputies of the French National Assembly and senators arrived in Crimea on Thursday on a two-day visit.
"Unfortunately, the dispute over the Mistral ships has turned to be very difficult. This is a big diplomatic mistake," Duik told TASS news agency, adding that France should transfer the amphibious ships to Russia instead of paying compensation.
Previous reports said the French side was ready to pay compensation if it failed to deliver the Mistral helicopter carriers. Moscow has repeatedly said it would be content with any of the options - either the amphibious ships or money.
The French lawmaker said the Mistral helicopter carriers could have taken part in a parade in Sevastopol on Russia’s Navy Day. "If the Russian Navy had received these ships, they would have surely taken part in the parade," he said.
The Sevastopol Bay hosted on Friday a dress rehearsal of the naval parade and the naval and sports event, which involved about 5,000 personnel, over 20 ships, 35 aircraft and 21 pieces of the coastal troops’ hardware.
The €1.12 billion contract for the construction of two Mistral-type helicopter carriers for the Russian Navy was signed in June 2011.
Under the contract, Russia was expected to receive the first of the two warships, the Vladivostok, in the autumn of 2014. However, Paris suspended the ship’s handover to Russia at the very last moment over Moscow’s stance on developments in neighboring Ukraine.
It was planned that the second ship dubbed the Sevastopol would be handed over to Russia in the second half of 2015. But the deal was suspended like in the case with the first Mistral ship.
The Mistral-type helicopter carriers have a displacement of 21 tonnes, the maximum body length of 210 meters, the speed of 18 knots and the range of up to 20,000 miles.
The helicopter carrier can accommodate 450 people in addition to its crew of 180. It carries 16 helicopters, of which six can be simultaneously stored on the flight-deck.
A compartment in the cargo deck can accommodate more than 40 tanks or 70 motorized vehicles. Mistral helicopter carriers are capable of performing four tasks at the same time: receive helicopters, land troops, and act as a command post and a floating hospital.